Long before Rosalind Wiseman's book, "Queen Bees and Wannabes: Helping Your Daughter Survive Cliques, Gossip, Boyfriends, and the New Realities of Girl World," blew up the big screen by sparking the movie "Mean Girls" in 2004, relational aggression, a covert form of bullying, was prevalent in middle and high schools across the nation.
The label "mean girls" is a tween expression used to describe a female bully who uses manipulation and intimidation to try and control her peers. Mean girl behavior often takes the form of gossiping, name-calling, ostracizing and backstabbing — on and off social media. Being the target of a mean girl on a daily basis can make school a very painful place to be, and, if not intervened upon, it can leave emotional and psychological scars.
Listed are several ideas how you can help your daughter when she encounters a mean girl. The ideas are meant to strengthen character and teach valuable life lessons about how to deal with relationally aggressive people.
Remind your daughter to stay confident: Bullying expert Sherri Gordon states, "Mean girls often have a natural ability to discern whom they can control and manipulate." Encourage your daughter to smile, be respectful and walk away. Girls who exercise relational aggression rely on their victims to be passive. They will more than likely pass your daughter over if they sense her strength and self-confidence.
Explain to your daughter how to be assertive without being aggressive: Gordon maintains, "While your daughter should try to always be kind, she must learn to stand up for herself." The goal is that she learns to defend herself in a respectful manner without being physically or verbally aggressive.
Role play with your daughter how she might respond to a mean gil attack: Make clear to your daughter that although she has no control over the words and actions of others, she does have control over her own. Stress that no matter what a mean girl says or does, she should try to keep her words to as few as possible. Together play out possible scenarios of how she may react when a mean girl strikes — keeping her words and emotions in check.
Explain to your daughter the importance of distancing herself from relationally aggressive peers: As much as possible, inform her to steer clear of girls who use aggression to try and get what they want. Remember: when mean girls don't have an audience, they lose power.
Encourage your daughter to find her friends: Have an open conversation with her about characteristics of a true friend versus a fake one. Mean girls are often selfish, envious, appearance/status-focused, vindictive and manipulative. And all of those are not attributes for building a healthy and long-lasting friendship.
Help your daughter to plug into other outlets to deal with the stress and anxiety relational aggression can cause: Encourage her to journal, paint, volunteer her time, draw, exercise or take up a new hobby. Do the activities with her, using the time to talk and listen. It is imperative you keep the lines of communication open to keep her from isolating herself.
Speak with your daughter about the importance of monitoring her moods: Changes in sleeping, eating and school performance patterns are often warning signs that your daughter isn't coping well and may need to seek professional help. And as is the case with any form of bullying, involve her teacher/principal immediately.